Weekend Review: 06th February 2017
Plenty of action for racing fans to get their teeth stuck in to at the weekend, with some pointers for future targets.
The most impressive performance on Saturday came from Buveur D’Air in the Betfred Contenders Hurdle at Sandown Park, where he did not have to come off the bridle to record an easy success. After two comfortable victories in novice chases, it was surprising to see connections’ opt to send him back over hurdles. It certainly is a signal of intent and highlights the regard the horse is held in. Buveur D’Air is evidently blessed with a huge amount of talent and will no doubt be a fascinating contender in what promises to be an open renewal of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, especially considering the unfortunate news on Monday that Faugheen has picked up an injury.
The feature race of the day was the Betfred Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, won in tenacious fashion by Top Notch. Despite being dwarfed by some rivals, he travelled well behind the leaders, jumping proficiently and coming clear after the last. Following wins by Gitane Du Berlais (2015) and Bristol De Mai (2016), this was the third successive victory in the race for jockey Daryl Jacob and the owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. The JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival would be next logical step for Top Notch.
Elsewhere on the card on Sandown Park, Otago Trail survived a last fence scare to score a victory for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch - only two weeks after finishing second in a gruelling renewal of the Peter Marsh Chase. Lord Of The Island recorded an authoritative victory for his trainer Fergal O’Brien who is enjoying a superb season. The embrace between winning jockey Willie Twiston-Davies and his brother Sam after the race, along with the enthusiasm and delight from the winning owners epitomised some of the greatest aspects of our sport.
Musselburgh hosted a two-day meeting full of quality, sponsored by Rewards4Racing betting partner, bet365. With good prize money, high class races and the prospect of good ground, many of the dominant Southern based trainers sent some of their string north of the border. It proved a worthwhile venture for them, with Paul Nicholls enjoying five winners, Charlie Longsdon three and Nicky Henderson also bagging two winners.
Perhaps the most notable performance was by the Victor Dartnell trained Dancing Shadow in the Edinburgh National. He was ridden quietly, took the lead two out and was pushed home to win well. The nine hundred plus mile round trip was certainly worth it and he could head north again for a crack at the Coral Scottish Grand National in April.
The star attraction on Sunday was over in Ireland with Douvan lining up in the Tied Cottage Chase. In reality we did not learn anything that we did not know already. Douvan simply confirmed his well-being and won easily against inferior rivals. It will no doubt set him up nicely for a tilt at the Champion Chase next month, where again opposition is likely to be thin on the ground.